I. In Focus This Week
(Ex-) Director’s Note: When going gets tough, the tough get geeky
Despite varied paths, it’s no accident election administrators are good at what they do
Doug Chapin, Election Academy
Last week, I was in Minneapolis for a career panel at the Humphrey School featuring state and local election administrators based around the Twin Cities.
During that session, one of the students asked about how people get into election administration, which led me and others on the panel to talk about what I call the “accidental” nature of the field.
As many of you know, there are almost as many origin stories as there are election officials, whether it’s the single mom who rose through the ranks from temp worker to become Kitsap County (WA) auditor or the Nebraska hydrologist who moved to Minnesota and discovered that election work was the “something else” he needed in his career decades ago.
But as the discussion continued, one of the panelists (it wasn’t technically on the record so I won’t say who) said something that stayed with me: while it is true that people come into election administration via many different paths, not everyone stays – and the ones who do are the ones with the ability to survive and thrive in the high-stress, deeply uncertain world election administrators inhabit.
Looking back on my interactions with everyone I’ve encountered in my years in the field, I realize how true that observation is.
Every election official I’ve ever met is involved in the same general struggle: to follow the law and serve their voters in the face of politics, changing laws and dwindling or uncertain budgets. It results in this odd blend of idealistic optimism and weary realism that understands that the daily work is a combination of (to paraphrase the late Sen. Paul Wellstone) pushing the good and stopping the bad.
But if nothing else, it creates a hardness (the good kind, like a diamond) that prepares one for whatever comes next – because something will be coming next.
As I noted back in 2012:
For all of our attempts as a nation to make politics a blend of sports and entertainment, the truth is that election administration is a serious business filled with serious people. [That’s why we call ourselves geeks instead of rockstars.] They know that the best way through any crisis, if and when it does occur, is to remain calm and stick to the plan (and if something completely unexpected comes up,improvise adapt and overcome).
Our challenge is to find a way to capture that spirit and instill it in the next generation of election administrators even as (I hope) we establish a more orderly path into the profession.
Yes, the substance of election administration is changing – as America becomes ever more mobile and diverse and technology increasingly dominates all facets of American life – but in some ways, the most important lesson we need to teach our future election officials is how to hold up under the intense scrutiny and wild uncertainty of the election process that will almost certainly never change.
How do we do that? Perhaps through case studies, maybe mentoring – but regardless of how we do it, we have to make sure that the next generation of election geeks has the same toughness (whether innate or learned or both) to bear up under the difficult but important job of making democracy work.
II. Knight News Challenge
The Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation are collaborating on the latest Knight News Challenge to answer this question: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.
For this challenge, Knight is looking for ideas and projects that better inform and inspire voters, as well as make the election process more fun and accessible for individuals.
There are no specific projects in mind, and the contest is open to anyone, from journalists, students, civic technologists, and academics, to news organizations, businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals.
However, the challenge will not fund projects involving voter registration, lobbying or advocating for specific parties, initiatives or candidates.
Winners — there will be more than one — will split more than $3 million.
The challenge opened February 25 and submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on March 19. Winners will be announced in June.
III. Election News This Week
- This week, voters in the city of Los Angeles approved two measures that will shift the city’s municipal and school board elections to even-numbered years to coincide with presidential and gubernatorial elections. While the vote county is not yet complete, Charter Amendments 1 and 2 were both winning with about 77 percent of the vote. “This is a great win for the people of Los Angeles — tonight they won back their elections from the special interests who have controlled local politics for far too long,” Dan Schnur, a co-chair of Citizens for Increased Voter Participation and former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission told The Los Angeles Times. With turnout for this week’s election not even reaching double digits (roughly 8.4 percent), hopefully this move will work to increase turnout.
- While a lawsuit over the state’s voter ID will move to trial [see Legal Updates] elections officials in North Carolina are moving ahead with sending nearly 200,000 notifications to registered voters that the state believes do not have the required IDs. Officials believe that number accounts for about 3 percent of the state’s registered voters. State elections officials are hoping that because they had a long lead-time between the time voter ID was approved and the time it was enacted, they will avoid some of the issues other states faced with implementation.
- Teenagers in the city of Brattleboro, Vermont won’t be joining their peers in Hyattsville and Takoma Park, Maryland at the polls on election day any time soon. On Tuesday, by an almost 2 to 1 margin, voters rejected a measure that would have lowered the voting age for municipal elections to 16. Also this week, voters in Middletown Springs, Vermont voted against a measure that would have set aside money to pay for a vote-tabulating machine. The measure was rejected 155-175.
- The Hartford, Connecticut city council is expected to vote next week on whether or not to remove the city’s three voter registrars. A resolution was introduced this week that would allow the council to remove the registrars. “A determination has been made that there’s a sufficient basis to move forward with formal charges,” Council President Shawn Wooden, who is co-sponsoring the resolution along with seven other council members told The Hartford Courant.
- Personnel News: Hannah Parker has been appointed to the Knox County, Tennessee election commission. Lampasas County, Texas Elections Administrator Randy McGuire has resigned. Margarette Shovlin has retired from the Falls Church City, Virginia electoral board and Bill Wanlund has joined it. Ann Beard, longtime Williams County, Tennessee election administrator will retire on June 30. Cameron County, Texas Elections Administrator Chris Davis is stepping down to take the same job in Williamson County.
IV. Legislative Updates
Arkansas: Under a bill introduced by Rep. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro), voters who have a concealed weapons permit would be allowed to carry firearms into polling places.
Indiana: The Senate has approved a bill that would make it illegal to share a photo of your ballot on Election Day. The ban is part of a 99-page clarification of the state’s voting laws.
Iowa: A bill to eliminate straight-ticket voting has cleared a House subcommittee and will not go before the full committee.
Kansas: A bill that would prohibit candidates from removing themselves from a ballot, other than in the case of death, has received first-round approval from the House.
Over in the Senate, by a 21-18 vote the Senate approved legislation that would move municipal and school board elections to November on odd-numbered years. The elections would remain nonpartisan.
New Jersey: Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-Ocean) has introduced legislation that would allow for the counting of absentee ballots if a voter dies after casting the ballot, but before that ballot is counted.
Oklahoma: The Senate Rules Committee advanced several pieces of election-reform legislation including SB 312 that would consolidate local and school board elections; SB 313 that would allow for online voter registration and SB 315 that would allow voters to place themselves on permanent absentee lists.
Tennessee: House Bill 726, introduced by Rep. Mark Pody and Rep. Mae Beavers would require certain elections notices be made by U.S. mail to all registered voters instead of publication in newspapers.
Texas: Sen. Charles Perry has introduced two pieces of election reform legislation. SB 795 would allow Texas to participate in the interstate crosscheck program to ensure that voters are not registered in multiple locations. SB 796 would allow elections officials to use lists of noncitizens complied in the jury selection process to ensure those folks are not registered to vote.
Utah: A bill that clarifies laws for mailed ballots passed the full House this week and now heads to the governor’s desk for signature. Under the legislation, ballots that are postmarked by rural post offices by Election Day, but may not be post marked by the main Post Office in Salt Lake City, will be counted.
Washington: By a 36-12 vote, the Senate has approved a bill that would move the state’s presidential primary from May to March — the 8th in 2016. The bill goes to the House next.
Wyoming: The House has approved legislation that will allow county clerks to move to the vote center system. The legislation, which was approved 47-11, also allows counties to switch from paper pollbooks to e-pollbooks, whether they move to vote centers or not. The bill, which had previously been approved by the Senate, returns there for a concurrence vote on some changes made by the House.
V. Legal Updates
U.S. Supreme Court: The nation’s highest court heard arguments this week in an Arizona-based redistricting case. In 2000, Arizona voters approved an initiative creating an independent redistricting commission made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent. The state GOP sued saying that the commission is unconstitutional. According to many published reports, the Justices seemed divided over the arguments. A ruling is expected this summer.
Georgia: The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled moot a lawsuit against Georgia that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed against Georgia and Alabama over alleged violations of UOCAVA. Because the Georgia Legislature has amended the state’s elections calendar to comply with UOCAVA, the court found the suit against Georgia moot. The case against Alabama continues.
Kentucky: According to Courthouse News Service (CNS), the 6th Circuit seems likely to uphold a ruling striking down Kentucky’s ban on electioneering within 300 feet of an active polling place. Attorneys for the state argued that the 300 feet is necessary because of Kentucky’s long history of election troubles. CNS said the justices seemed skeptical.
New Jersey: The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled this week that Cape May must pay for the special election to permit it to withdraw from the LCMR School District.
North Carolina: Wake County Judge Michael Morgan issued an 11-page order saying that he could not make a final decision the lawsuit over the state’s voter photo ID based on court fillings and legal pleadings alone and that the suit should proceed to trial. According to WRAL, in his order Morgan wrote that the plaintiffs failed to prove up front that “the requirements of the photo identification to cast an election ballot now creates anew some financial sacrifice upon a person’s ability to vote.” Despite that, he said the suit should not be thrown out and both sides should prepare for a summer trial.
Tennessee: The Nashville Student Organizing Committee—a student-run social justice and civil rights organization—has sued the state of Tennessee over its voter photo ID law. In particular, the suit seeks to have student IDs included as one of the accepted forms of voter ID. “For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote,” Jon Sherman, a staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network, said in a statement.
Texas: This week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit urging the court to find Texas’ voter photo ID law discriminatory against minorities. According to The National Law Journal, the brief cited the October 6-3 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed the law to proceed in November of 2014, but not necessarily beyond.
Washington: Following its successful legal battle against the City of Yakima over at-large voting systems, the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking $2.8 million in legal fees from the city.
VI. Opinions This Week
Colorado: Military voters
Hawaii: Voter registration
Illinois: Election judges
Kansas: Election dates
Maine: Voter ID
Rhode Island: Mail ballots
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Policy & Elections Technology: A Legislative Perspective— NCSL is hosting a national meeting to bring together legislators, legislative staff, election officials, voting technology and computer security experts, legal experts, advocates, federal agency staff and other interested parties to discuss the future of elections technology. Sessions will cover voting technology 101; a report on NCSL’s Elections Technology Project; recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration; the impact of legislation on voting system design; alternative voting methods and implications for technology; testing and certifying voting systems; the use of technology for post-election audits, recounts and resolving disputes; and what is pushing change in the way ballots are cast. Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico When: June 3 – 5. Contact: Katy Owens Hubler, email@example.com, 303-856-1656. For more information and to register, click here.
NASED Summer Meeting— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold it’s 2015 summer meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this year. Registration will open soon. Where: Cleveland, Ohio. When: June 23-25. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The Election Center hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
VIII. Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Chief Deputy Clerk & Recorder/Elections, Adams County, Colorado — in collaboration with and oversight from the Clerk and Recorder, the Chief Deputy will plan and oversee the credible conduct of elections, ensure the integrity of the process and the accuracy of operational tasks based on applicable federal and state laws, Secretary of State (SOS) Rules and organizational policies. The successful candidate will participate in the preparation and execution of the department’s strategic and tactical plans, annual budgets, and asset management; be responsible for the day-to-day management of the elections division; and perform a variety of public relation functions. This position reports directly to the Clerk & Recorder. Requirements: Five years election related experience or any equivalent combination of education and work experience that satisfy the requirements of the job; high school diploma or GED is required; college coursework in Business Management or Bachelors degree is preferred. Salary: $72,540-$101,544. Deadline: March 5, 4:30pm Mountain. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Director, FairVote, Takoma Park, Maryland — position will entail translating FairVote’s rigorous and detailed research into compelling messages and identifying and executing effective strategies for communicating our reform proposals. The Communications Director will be responsible for strategic communications with our supporters, our coalition partners and the media. Overseeing a team of dedicated staff, the Communications Director will ensure that all written and online materials fit within our communications strategy and are held to high standards. Initial responsibilities will focus on fulfilling the requirements of recent grants involving communications and electoral system reform. Our ideal candidate will be ready to join FairVote for the long haul and play a central role in projects designed to achieve our core electoral reform goals over the coming decade. We expect to hear from applicants who are happy in their current work, but ready to embrace this unique opportunity to transform American democracy. Salary: Salary will be commensurate with experience and is expected to start at a minimum of $85,000. We also provide benefits for health care, commuting and retirement. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Deputy of Elections, Arapahoe County, Colorado — deputy of elections is a dynamic leader, utilizing data and technology to provide the citizens of Arapahoe County greater access to the ballot. This position will oversee the creation of the annual strategic plan, incorporating national and state best practices, to promote fair, honest, and transparent elections. This position requires extensive knowledge of Colorado election law and the ability to interpret such laws into the practical operations of the division. This position provides oversight to the Elections Operations Manager and the Voter Registration Manager. Salary: $76,706-$116,520 annually. Deadline: March 16. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Division Manager, Los Angeles County Registrar — position reports directly to the Department Head and directs the Governmental and Legislative Affairs (GLA) Division of the Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC). The incumbent exercises a high level of independence and discretion in advising the Executive Management on governmental and legislative affairs, and providing strategic media and communication strategies to enhance public awareness of departmental operations and services. Incumbent must possess highly effective oral and written communication skills to successfully work with the Board of Supervisors Executive Office, County departments, federal and state officials, special interest groups, stakeholders, public, and representatives of the media. Additionally, possession of extensive knowledge in the principles and techniques of mass communication, media relations and social marketing is required to perform the duties of this position. Salary: $8026-$12,149/monthly. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Administrator, Grays Harbor County, Washington — the Election Administrator is responsible for all aspects of elections, voter registration, and supervision of other election workers for federal, state, and local elections occurring within Grays Harbor County. Salary: $3,761-$4,560. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply click here. For questions or additional information, contact Vern Spatz, auditor.
Executive Assistant, Los Angeles County Registrar — performs special assignment and liaison work for the Department Head. The one position allocated to this class in a department typically reports to a Department Head of a medium to large-sized County department or a department that provides direct services to the Board of Supervisors. The position is responsible for providing a wide range of staff support services on the more complex departmental management issues and operational needs, including conducting special administrative and research studies affecting departmental operations and acting as liaison and coordinator for the director within the department and between the various commissions, boards, committees and public and private entities. Incumbents must possess a thorough knowledge of departmental operations sufficient to analyze, evaluate, and develop procedures and methods affecting the commitment of departmental resources; effective communicating skills, including written and oral; and the ability to deal effectively with various officials of other agencies, County departments, and Board Offices who work with the department. Salary: $7,185-$9,425/monthly. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Outreach Director, FairVote, Takoma Park, Maryland — Overseeing a team of dedicated staff, the Outreach Director will be responsible for expanding and supporting our network of reform partners nationally and in states and cities. Nationally, we are building a reform coalition of elected officials, organizations, media outlets and influential individuals ready to support federal legislation to establish ranked choice voting for U.S. House and Senate elections and multi-winner House districts. We are working with allies in states and cities in support of advancing and implementing ranked choice voting (both in multi-winner and single-winner elections) and other fair representation voting systems, including as remedies in Voting Rights Act cases. We also provide support to those seeking to improve participation through ideas such as the National Popular Vote plan for president, 100% voter registration, and public interest voting equipment. The Outreach Director’s initial responsibilities will focus on supporting reform partners involved in state and local campaigns for ranked choice voting, launching our congressional reform plan for fair representation voting, ensuring our Policy Guide 2015 proposals reach their intended audiences, and providing guidance to colleagues working on our Promote Our Vote and Representation 2020 projects. Our ideal candidate will be ready to join FairVote for the long haul and play a central role in projects designed to achieve our core electoral reform goals over the coming decade. We expect to hear from applicants who are happy in their current work, but ready to embrace this unique opportunity to transform American democracy. Salary: Salary will be commensurate with experience and is expected to start at a minimum of $85,000. We also provide benefits for health care, commuting, retirement and moving. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver — policy specialist will work on NCSL’s elections team, a part of NCSL’s Legislative Management program. A policy specialist requires skills in research, analysis, and program planning gained through progressively more complex and more in-depth work over several years. The work is performed independently within established program guidelines or project specifications; major work products are reviewed by more senior professionals or program managers/directors for quality, policy considerations, form, and substance. The policy specialist will develop expertise on elections-related technology and election administration. The work includes research, writing, speaking, maintaining internal and external documents and resources, developing connections with state legislators and legislative staff as well as meeting planning. Travel will be minimal. Salary: $4,033+/month DOE. Deadline: March 12. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voting Rights Coordinator, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles — Advancing Justice-LA seeks an independent Voting Rights Coordinator for 6 months to lead efforts to ensure that minority and limited English speaking voters have full access to voting as required by the Voting Rights Act. The Coordinator will work under the direction of a Senior Attorney to engage community members in the electoral process and monitor election sites in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties.Salary: $16-$17.50 per hour with parking, paid holidays, and vacation and sick time. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
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Arizona’s Yavapai County recently acquired new voting equipment, and is looking for buyers interested in purchasing equipment from their previous Diebold system. Items available for purchase include (price per each, not including shipping): TSx Packages ($50.00), Accu-Vote Precinct Packages ($35.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Packages ($175.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Scanners ($45.00), Accu-Feed Systems ($100.00), 128K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), 32K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), and TSx PCMCIA Memory cards ($25.00). Equipment is being sold as-is on a first come, first served basis until all items have been liquidated. Interested parties may send a request for more information to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include in your email: Contact Name, State, County, and phone number.